Elderly woman among victims of Wigan motorway horror smashes

The aftermath of the M58 pile-up
The aftermath of the M58 pile-up

A woman in her 90s is believed to be among the casualties of a double motorway pile-up near Wigan which claimed two lives and injured several more.

A minibus, containing staff and pupils from a special school, and a lorry were among vehicles involved in the two smashes on the M58 between Orrell and Bickerstaffe.

Police announced that an adult and a 14-year-old boy had died in the collisions and it was later confirmed by Justine Sims, head of Pontville school in Ormskirk, that they were one of her staff and a pupil and that counselling would be offered to students attending on Wednesday.

A source has since revealed that a woman in her 90s was among those badly injured in one of the crashes.

The driver of the HGV, a 31-year-old from Chorley, has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, said Lancashire Police.

A number of other people also suffered serious injuries, including a man in his 60s, and are being treated at hospital, added police.

A second crash happened shortly after the first incident and involved an HGV, a van and a car.

Helen Green Purnell, 48, a pharmacy assistant from Skelmersdale, saw the aftermath of the pile-up while out walking dogs.

She said: “All I can tell you is I saw the cars slowing down, and as I got there, there was a white van that had fallen down in to the ditch.

“It looked very serious. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”

Writing to parents, Ms Sims said: “We are deeply shocked to learn of the terrible accident that took place earlier today involving a minibus carrying a number of our young people and staff.

“It is with the deepest sadness that we can confirm that one young person and one member of staff on board the minibus have died and the remaining four have been taken to hospital.

“Our thoughts and sympathies are with all our families at this very sad time.

“Our overriding priority is to provide help and support to classmates, colleagues and families of those involved in the accident as best we can.

“We will be in school tomorrow with additional therapeutic staff to support your son or daughter.”

In a statement, Lancashire Police said: “We are working closely with partner agencies and the motorway remains closed in both directions for accident investigations. Diversions are in place.

“Our thoughts are with all of those affected by today’s tragic incidents.

“Anyone who is concerned that someone they know may have been involved and who needs to speak to police should call 101 quoting log number 0523 of Tuesday, January 8.

“Anyone with information about either collision should call 101 quoting log number 275 of Tuesday, January 8.”